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Growing Grizzly Population Brings Bears To Private Lands

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Biologist Dr. Cecily Costello speaks during the IGBC meeting in Missoula, MT, December 12, 2017.
Josh Burnham

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee is meeting in Missoula Tuesday and Wednesday to review and revise their management and research goals for the next 5 years.

A big challenge for wildlife managers trying to encourage bear movement between populations near the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide Ecosystems (NCDE), is the higher proportion of private land between the parks, compared to inside grizzlies’ core habitat.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Biologist Dr. Cecily Costello, pointed out one important difference between core habitat areas and the lands in between.

“There’s a big difference in what’s going on in the core of the habitat and these connectivity areas. If you look at the NCDE recovery zone, it’s 87 percent public land. So, 17 percent of is private land. If you look at that area in between the two zones, it’s 50 percent public land.”

That means management tools like conservation easements on private land, bear-proof food storage and preventing conflicts with livestock become more important if bears are going to make the trek between ecosystems.

With a growing grizzly population and lots of suitable habitat across Western Montana, Costello says we shouldn’t be surprised to see a grizzly anywhere between the NCDE and Yellowstone, and says when it comes to grizzly bear survival and expansion.

“Human acceptance is really the big picture,” Costello says.

The committee also discussed adding a representative from the Department of Transportation to the IGBC to help plan safe passages across highways.

The meeting continues Wednesday. On the agenda is a discussion of funding and time for public comment.

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